Local students bring home honors from regional science fair

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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Students from the Albemarle County Public Schools division brought home dozens of awards from the Regional Science Fair.

The 38th annual Virginia Piedmont Regional Science Fair was recently held at the John Paul Jones Arena.

According to a release, students from Albemarle, Western Albemarle and Monticello high schools received a total of 49 awards, including 11 first place awards in 15 categories.

Students from Sutherland Middle School received six awards, including a first place in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering.

A WAHS junior, Libby Terrell, won Best in Show and first place in Medicine and Health Sciences for her project, which looked at the effect of a lower carbohydrate diet on cardiovascular health.

"The health and wellness implications of this study make its value much more than simply an interesting science exercise," said Carol Stutzman, a science teacher at WAHS. "Although a small study, it does indicate that lower-carb diets with less processed foods can improve heart health."

Another project that received a Best in Show honor was done by an AHS junior, Paula Zhu, in Cellular and Molecular Biology. She developed and analyzed real-time visualizations of live neurotransmissions in the brain and how such are impaired by autism, depression, and Alzheimer's.

Terrell and Zhu have both automatically qualified for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, which will take place in Phoenix in May.

Along with Zhu, all of the other first-place category winners from ACPS are students of Kirsten Fuoti, who teaches at AHS' Math, Engineering and Science Academy, or MESA.

There were several other projects from AHS students that took first-place honors including one studying the ability of rain gardens to filter contaminants from runoff, one that confirmed plant-based oils could be comparable to alcohol-based hand sanitizers in eliminating bacteria and maintaining skin health, one using nitrogen flushing to extend the shelf-life of milk with higher fat contents, one looking at adding particles of a drought-resistant plant in the watering of crops like corn and wheat that could increase their drought resistance, one testing the impact of the number of stokes per minute on the speed of a boat, one looking at the association between various facial symmetry ratios and perceived attractiveness, one looking at higher ocean temperatures that could be reversed by using floating solar farms, one testing the effectiveness and behavior of a computer program that created players who learn cooperation skills within the strategic game theory known as the prisoner's dilemma, and one looking at how the shape of a kayak's hull alters its speed capabilities.

ACPS says in the junior division, Vivian Hui won a first place in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering for a project analyzing how robotic lawnmowers perform on different types of slopes.

Millions of students around the world compete in local and school-sponsored science fairs in order to qualify for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

About 1,800 students from more than 75 countries, regions and territories will participate in the international fair.

For more information on the local winners, click on the link in the Related Links box.

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